Unemployment lineNever mind the outlandish expectations set last week by ADP's estimate of private job growth. At 103,000, the actual figures released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) came in well below analyst expectations of 150,000.

And if you look below the surface, you'll find a deeply divided labor market. While there are plenty of broadly encouraging signs, structural unemployment continues to be painful as the ranks of the long-term jobless keep swelling -- a distinction that should be far more central to government policy than it currently is.

Still, overall trends in the labor market are starting to impress even some noted bears.

"I know that everyone expects me to tell them that the headline number of 103,000 was too soft," money manager John Mauldin wrote in a research note. "But there were revisions of a plus 70,000 for the last two months," Mauldin wrote, adding that there have now been upward revisions to initial estimates for four months in a row.

Other Positive Signs

The upward revisions are particularly promising because of the methodology the BLS uses. "The BLS does its best at guessing the right number in a systematic way," Mauldin wrote. "And usually it is not all that bad a guess." Except, Mauldin wrote, at turning points in the economy. "When the economy starts to recover from recession, they underestimate the number of jobs."

There were positive signs elsewhere, too.

The average workweek ticked up to 33.6 hours from 33.5 hours month-over-month, and aggregate hours worked increased 0.1%, Ned Davis Research wrote in a note to clients. The monthly change in average hourly earnings compared to last year "jumped to 1.8% from 1.6%," he wrote, "the biggest increase in over two years and bears watching over the next few months."

Payrolls increased by 1.1 million for 2010, putting the labor market recovery on better footing than after the last two recessions. "Private payrolls are tracking a little better than the 1991 'jobless recovery' but much better than the 2001 'jobless recovery,'" Ned Davis Research wrote.

Underwhelming Efforts So Far

Unfortunately, these trends are of little comfort to the very workers who have suffered the longest. The number of people out of work for more than six months increased by 113,000 to 6.4 million and accounted for over 44% of the unemployed. "Evidence of structural unemployment was more acute," Ned Davis Research wrote.

Current U.S. economic policy to deal with chronic unemployment -- which consists largely of prolonged monetary policy easing by the Federal Reserve and legislative fiscal boosts like extending tax cuts -- remains underwhelming. The growing number of job openings, for example, speaks to a shortage of skills as much as a shortage of work. Efforts to retrain workers may have a much greater payoff compared with moves to simply boost demand.

Government hiring of workers for public services, as some prominent economists have advocated, should also be considered.

Beyond the disappointing headline numbers, December's jobs report does show that things are getting better. Except, sadly, for those who have it the worst.


More Coverage from AOL Jobs:


Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

How Financial Planners go Grocery Shopping

Learn to shop smart and save.

View Course »

Timing Your Spending

How to pay less by changing when you purchase.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

27 Comments

Filter by:
lndjet

maybe our fantastic short sighted government should have seen the big picture on extended job loss when they agreed to huge tax breaks for corporations to off shore american jobs.
how on earth do they expect to get jobs back when they are the ones responsible for the loss?
then they claim social security is going broke? do you think? the tax breaks and coddling of the corporations is what really got us to this mess.
whatever happened to a government by the people for the people, not big business!

January 11 2011 at 1:31 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
neilbern

Reports seem to consider any new job as one broad category. There is no distinguishing between jobs that may be considered a career compared to a "burger flipper." What about good jobs. Are American companies creating new jobs that are being off-shored? How are these jobs ranked? Are they counted as jobs created, although they are in places such as India, Russis, Ukraine?
What about graduating college students who cannot find jobs? They are not considered unemployed since they never had full time employment. If counted, how much would this impact the unemployment rate? They number is already lower than it should be because people who cannot find jobs and come off the unemployment rolls or return to school because they have given up looking, are not counted as unemployed. How much higher would the unemployment rate be if they included graduating college students and other categories of uncounted unemployed people?

January 11 2011 at 1:13 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
pmeun69023

Let's ship more jobs to mexico (like obama's GM - the sierra pickup is now 100% assembled in mexico)and china, grease the union bosses palms to the tune of billions. Yeah, that sounds like a good obama plan!!

January 10 2011 at 6:52 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pmeun69023's comment
ttlybttm

no thats the anti obama plan, but since the retards didnt get it and voted repukakins back in office, thats whats in store for us, more jobs overseas and more fat cats for us to become enslaved to,, meet ur new masters, bush, cheney, and their children if the repukeakins have their way, cuz they want to keep their money, the only thing they spend it on is chinese labor and buyin ur dumbass votes!!!

January 10 2011 at 9:49 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Robert & Lisa

Competition works every time it is used fairly. Give the money for education to the parents and let them choose the schools their kids go to. The good schools will thrive and the poor ones will go out of business. The cost of education will go down and the quality will go up. Who other than the corrupt Teacher's Union isn't for that?

January 10 2011 at 6:17 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Robert & Lisa's comment
ttlybttm

ROFL, ,U BOUGHT THE REPUBLICAN LINE, HOOK, LINE AND SINKER!!! THE CORRUPT TEACHERS UNION, THE AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS UNION, UNIONS UNIONS UNIONS, too bad facts are in ur way, best economic times for ALL american was when Unions were strong, then Ronnie Mcdonald Reagan comes along ( the republicans clown!!! and puppet!!!), and wham, bash unions, take away their power and give tax breaks to the rich,, and since 1980??? lower middle class, more poor, more wealth at the top,,, but of course facts dont do u, u prefer to buy the GREAT marketing by the ruling class "BUY ONE GET ONE FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE, FREE THIS FREE THAT,, ROFL,,, works for walmart, guess it worked for the ruling class, they no dummies, just the folks that keep buyin that line are!!!!

January 10 2011 at 9:53 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Robert & Lisa

Our socialist public educational system has done a great job brainwashing our children about our formerly free and capitalist country. Misery loves company and they are out to destroy our freedoms and our wealth. Have any of you educated fools ever wondered why the richest, evilest man in the world supports the Demoncrat puppets in white house and the senate?

January 10 2011 at 6:14 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
Robert & Lisa

See what happens when the Demoncrats are in charge? The ultra rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The poverty rate is double what it was when the Demoncrats took over congress four years ago. George Soros is getting paid back for the money he invested in getting the Demoncrats elected at your expense.

January 10 2011 at 6:07 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Robert & Lisa's comment
ttlybttm

duh, even a retard n 6th grade knows that we still suffer under the last republican administration and even the most retarded know takes more than two years to change that, but then again, guess u not our average tard now are u!?!!?!? LOL

January 10 2011 at 9:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
metter's world

They don't want to hire anyone over 40, or who has education or who is fat, etc..I suggest those of us who have been passed over adopt the civil rights agenda--IF THEY HIRE YOU DON"T SHOP THERE!!!!

January 10 2011 at 5:35 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
sfamilyent

OK Republicans, where are the jobs? And, where are the actions to create those jobs? The American people are not a patient bunch...

January 10 2011 at 5:23 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
tkustkt

a great deal of the long term unemployed are those 50 and over; a lot of them are probably not going to work again. there is subtle age discrimination, but not really much that can be done about it.

January 10 2011 at 3:47 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
Bill

The most obvious reason for chronic unemployment is that we've dismantled most of our factories and sent them to the 3rd world. This was the result of ending the tarriffs on imported goods. Prior to NAFTA, and the changes to GATT (General Agreement on Tarriffs and Trade) and the WTO, it was not profitable to relocate factories overseas and sell back to US markets. Tarriffs have existed since this country began and was a chief source of revenue for the US Government before the income tax. Ending the tarriffs has been the "holy grail" for corporate America since the time of the robber barons. It has made Wall Street, CEOs, Walmart, etc extremely rich at the expense of the rest of the country.

January 10 2011 at 2:41 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bill's comment
JOE Beatty SR.

But what can we do about this Removal of tarrifs and exporting of jobs ?

January 10 2011 at 6:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply